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Gangs of New York - THE BOWERY

"The Bowery" plays a significant role in Gangs of New York. It is a part of the city which owes its name to the "boweries" (from the Dutch word bouwerij, meaning "farm" or "plantation") of early New Yorkers.

Famous for the Bowery House (and much later the "Bowery Boys" gang), the Bowery was once a pastoral place. The road (built over an old Indian trail) leading to the farm of Peter Stuyvesant, New Amsterdam’s strong-willed, influential and autocratic 17th century governor, was called the Bowery.

After the English wrested control of Manhattan Island from the Dutch in 1664, and New Amsterdam became New York City, wealthy families built weekend retreats in the Bowery’s rural area. But after poverty-stricken immigrants, fleeing catastrophic events like the 1845-48 Irish potato famine, streamed into New York, the character of the city - including the Bowery - changed.

As New York City grew, wealthy people left the rural area of lower Manhattan in favor of Fifth Avenue and Washington Heights, farther north. By the mid-1800s, the Bowery road led to theaters and dance halls instead of farms. Nineteenth century saloons (replacing seventeenth century “plantations”) were part of the landscape. Organizations, like the Bowery branch of the YMCA, provided shelter and food for young men who needed it.

Some of those young men, living in lower Manhattan, were recent immigrants from famine-stricken Ireland.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5124stories and lessons created

Original Release: Dec 01, 2002

Updated Last Revision: Jun 20, 2017


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